Bishop Robert Morneau reflects on Cross, Word, Eucharist and how the Community embraces each
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the slightly shortened text of Bishop Morneau’s homily delivered April 8, 2018.
Congratulations on your 150th anniversary and a big thank you for your great ministry here in the Diocese of Green Bay and beyond. A very special thank you from the Morneau family. My five siblings and I were taught by your Community. Eight years for each of the six of us: 48 years of ministry and we are grateful.
There are three symbols that define your ministry: the Cross, the Eucharist, and the Word. Powerful and rich images of your faith and your life in Christ.
Cross: A symbol of inclusion
Pope John XXIII, recently canonized a saint, convened the Second Vatican Council. A powerful image of his pontificate was the Cross. Listen to his understanding of this symbol:
“The secret of my ministry is that crucifix you see opposite my bed. It’s there so that I can see it my first waking moment and before going to sleep. It’s there, also, so that I can talk to it during the long evening hours. Look at it, see it as I see it. Those open arms have been the program of my pontificate; they say that Christ died for all, for all. No one is excluded from his love, from this forgiveness.”
Yes, Jesus died for all, for all. No person was excluded from his love. My experience of your Community is that of open arms, the open arms of Jesus on the Cross. The word for this is hospitality; everyone is welcomed. More, St. John XXIII says that no one is excluded from God’s love. Your community witnesses to that inclusivity, a theme that Pope Francis has been challenging us to live. I thank you for that hospitality and inclusivity.
Eucharist: Love made real
Your second image is the Eucharist, this sacrament that is a meal and a sacrifice. I have here an apron, a symbol of serving a meal, a symbol that Bishop Ken Utuner of Saginaw used when he became the bishop of that diocese. He said: “I am your waiter; I’ve come to serve.”
I recently came across this passage from a Minnesota writer, Patricia Hampl. It is a delightful passage that captures a dimension of your Franciscan spirituality:
“I went first to Assisi. I had already begun to be invested in Franciscanism. One of the things about the Catholic Church is that you have different flavors to choose from, which are delineated by the different orders. These different styles are called charisms – ways of loving. One story the Franciscans love to tell is that if you go to a Benedictine house they take you right away to the chapel because they’re so proud of their liturgical life. If you go to a Dominican house they take you to the library because they’re so proud of their intellectual life. But if you go to a Franciscan monastery they take you to the kitchen. Their charism is earthy. This is where we eat and drink and laugh, where we are deeply connected to this troubadour saint.”
Your Community is beautifully rustic, earthy, real. You love to eat and drink and laugh; you are deeply connected to St. Francis, that joyful troubadour. This joy flows from your knowledge that you are loved; the peace we hear about in the Gospel – three times Jesus says: “Peace be with you” – peace is also the product of being loved.
St. Augustine wrote about the mystery of love: Quia amasti me, Domine, fecisti me amabilem. (“Because you have loved me, O Lord, you have made me loveable").
Word: True prayer is rare
Then here is a third symbol: Word! Jesus is the Word, the Word-made-flesh. At a recent Rural Life Day Mass in Brillion, a journalist gave me a book on spirituality, The Prayer of the Presence of God. I was not aware of the book or its author, one Dom Augustin Guillerand. Here is a passage that speaks about prayer and presence, two themes that are central to your way of life. It is in prayer and presence that we encounter the Word, Jesus, in a special way. Here is what Dom Augustin says:
“True prayer is perhaps very rare, because of the lack of this necessary basis: the placing of ourselves in the presence of the divine Person whom we are addressing. We do not know, we do not think, we do not sufficiently realize that He is there with us, looking at us, listening, speaking, loving, and giving Himself. Too often He is only someone present to our mind, soon replaced by others. He is not ‘the soul’s sweet Guest,’ our friend and Father. Before beginning to pray, we should remind ourselves of this emphatically again and again; we should make it live, just as we make others live by becoming absorbed in them.”
Thank you for your witness to the Gospel; thank you for your great images of the Cross, Eucharist, and Word; thank you for striving to live the themes of prayer, presence, and hospitality.